Dasein, Red Elephant.

Dover Beach must be nice

Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

redelephant: Matthew Arnold's Dover Beach. A melancholic meditation on the ocean. Pathetic fallacy. I particularly like the long sentences in this passage from the first stanza. Meant to be read in one breath, it is akin to an terrific, worded sigh. Or the sound of a wave when it reaches the furthest point of shore.

Damn. I miss the ocean.

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Do you list?


redelephant: Listmania! Hip literary critic Larry McCaffery, an English Professor at San Diego State University, lists out the 100 greatest hits in 20th Century literature.

Lists are many things: memory aids, containers of information, a means of organizing materials, efforts to prioritize and overcome chaos and entropy. The following list of the 20th Century’s Greatest Literary Hits is all of the above, as well as being a means of sharing with my readers my own views about what books are going to be read 100 or 1000 years from now.

Interview with William H.Gass


redelephant: This is a week old. William H.Gass talks to the Boston Globe about his new collection of essays, the Temple of Texts.. In this five minute interview, he starts getting excited about the logic behind the simple to-do list. For Gass, the list is “the power and joy of utterance, of hyperbola and enthusiasms“.

Pick up laundry, call the dentist, visit the cemetary. Lists. I love ’em. Especially online ones. An illusion of productivity. Order admist chaos. Vision of a perfected future. The eye of a hurricane. You get the idea.

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Henry Fuseli and Gothic Romanticism


Titania and Bottom, Henry Fuseli (1790). Based on Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream.

God, I love this painting. Pretty, ethereal and macabre at the same time. For a more detailed view, see here.

The Tate is currently holding a Gothic-Romantic art exhibition, displaying works by Fuseli and several other artists:

Gothic Nightmares explores the work of Henry Fuseli (1741–1825) and William Blake (1757–1827) in the context of the Gothic – the taste for fantastic and supernatural themes which dominated British culture from around 1770 to 1830.Featuring over 120 works by these artists and their contemporaries, the exhibition creates a vivid image of a period of cultural turmoil and daring artistic invention.

Why Animals, Ted Hughes?


Portrait of Ted Hughes by Sylvia Plath, 1957

While reading Keith Sagar’s The Laughter of Foxes: A Study of Ted Hughes, I came across several quotes from Hughes, explaining the obvious animal symbolism in most of his poems.

Hughes told Ekbert Faas that all the forms of natural life were ‘emissaries from the underworld’. In the 1995 Paris Review interview, Hughes was asked why he chose ‘to speak through animals so often’. He replied:

I suppose, because they were there at the beginning. Like parents. Since I spent my first seventeen or eighteen years constantly thinking about them more or less, they became a language–a symbolic language which is also the language of my whole life. It was … part of the machinery of my mind from the beginning. They are a way of connecting all my deepest feelings together. So, when I look for, or get hold of a feeling of that kind, it tends to bring up the image of an animal or animals simply because that’s the deepest, earliest language that my imagination learned. (81)

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Beckett Turns a Hundred


I'm drooling over the the Beckett Centenary Festival, organized by both the Gate Theatre Dublin and the Barbican, simultaneously in London and Dubin, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Samuel Beckett’s birth. Six delicious weeks of drama, film, talks, visual art and music from the 19 March - 6 May 2006.

Mouth-watering highlights include a collection of Beckett films such as Atom Egoyan’s rendition of Krapp’s Last Tape (featurin John Hurt), Neil Jordan's take on Not I (starring Juliana Moore) as well as several panel discussions on themes of nationalism, politics and existentialism in Beckett's work.

Anyone else wish they could attend? :(


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Latin American Art: Catalina Estrada


Catalina Estrada, a Columbian graphic arts designer creates interstellaric shimmering images with an beautiful pictorial schematic. Her figures remind me a little of Tara McPherson's work and her liberal use of bright colors has an edgy carnival-ish new world feel to it. Check out her lovely website for more pictures. (Mucho Gracias.. Boing Boing)

For more latin american graphic art, check out Cuartopiso and Santotipo.

Ulysses Syndication


In honor of the 100th anniversary of James Joyce's Ulysses, Botheration! is showing one page of the novel every day untill June 14, 2006. If you use RSS feeds, you can start from the beginning and subscribe for a daily page feed. Sounds like a good idea to make sure you get to the end of the book.

Other RSS book feeds include Alice in Wonderland and the Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci, and Charles Pooter's the Diary of a Nobody.

Righteous Podslammin’: Poetry and Black History


I'm really excited about PodSlam.org's first feature: 15 poets from Denver poetry slammin' on the web about Black History Month. The site is pretty interactive.. you can watch videos of the poets reciting their poems, rate them, do up your own blog or participate in a forum. So far, the poets I've watched are pretty high quality. Voters on the website also stand to a chance to win a spankin new video Ipod (Final draw is on 24th February)

Check out Isis and Ken Arkind. They good. We like!

Bukowski – A Smile To Remember

A Smile to Remember
Charles Bukowski

We had goldfish and they circled around and around
in the bowl on the table near the heavy drapes
covering the picture window and
my mother, always smiling, wanting us all
to be happy, told me, “be happy Henry!”
and she was right: it’s better to be happy if you
but my father continued to beat her and me several times a week
raging inside his 6-foot-two frame because he couldn’t
understand what was attacking him from within.

my mother, poor fish,
wanting to be happy, beaten two or three times a
week, telling me to be happy: “Henry, smile!
why don’t you ever smile?

and then she would smile, to show me how, and it was the
saddest smile I ever saw

one day the goldfish died, all five of them,
they floated on the water, on their sides, their
eyes still open,
and when my father got home he threw them to the cat
there on the kitchen floor and we watched as my mother

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Kristeva’s Murder in Byzantium


Bulgarian-French literary critic, Julia Kristeva in a recent interview with the Boston Globe to promote her recently translated detective novel, Murder in Byzantium:

''The detective novel deals with the radical evil that is the desire of death," she observed. However, ''contrary to other genres that lull the reader with various illusions, the detective novel is an optimistic genre that says: You cannot eradicate evil, but you can know where it comes from by leading an investigation. This is the optimism of curiosity, of awareness, of questioning."

I love the way she talks about literature. The "radical evil that is the desire of death": a pretty kinky European-Continental way of describing a novel's subject, n'est pas?

Truth and Death: Capa’s Falling Soldier


Robert Capa’sLoyalist Militiaman at the Moment of Death, Cerro Muriano, September 5, 1936.” The definitive image of the Spanish Civil War, this picture was first published in the July 1937 issue of Life magazine, with the caption stating, “Robert Capa’s camera catches a Spanish soldier the instant he is dropped by a bullet through the head in front of Córdoba.

Capa’s picture might as well be staged (as it was alleged to be by several critics). There is nothing violent or shocking about it. No blood. No look of fear or torture. No mishappened limbs. Just black and white sunlight, a shadowy sky and a look of sublime peace on the face of the falling soldier. He could be falling down, drunk in his casual shirtsleeves from emotional fatigue. The wind in his ears.

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From Nihonga to Nihonga: Kumi Machida


Kumi Machida’s ink paintings are currently showing at MOT, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo as part of the No Borders, From Nihonga to Nihonga exhibition. Drawn using India ink and pigment on fine flaxen paper, Kumi Machida uses an extraordinary network of brush lines, created through the repetition of numerous fine lines.

Ultra-modern fatties meets Victorian sadism in an dystopian biogenetic-obsessed anti-society. I don't quite know how to feel when I look at the paintings.

See more at PingMag.

Sylvia Plath, Lady Lazarus

L to R: “Two Women Reading” and “Nine Female Figures” by Sylvia Plath

I'm currently reading and re-reading Sylvia Plath's Colossus and Ariel poems. If you haven't read Plath before, this should be a good starting point. . Almost too many books have been devoted to the analysis of Plath's poetry, and because of our morbid fascination with suicide and tragedy, to her personal life. On the other hand, not much has been written about Plath's incredible oratorial stye of poetry reading. Her famous reading of Lady Lazarus for the BBC shows an extraordinary forceful enunciation that fits the poem's bitterness. Taking on some sort of an British semi-accent, the poem is spat out with controlled disgust and has so much aural power that it is almost difficult to listen to.

A collection of comments on Lady Lazarus. Link

Kerouac and the Navy

pmaher-340-Kerouac450.jpgsmJack Kerouac20.jpg

"A decade before On the Road was published, Jack Kerouac evinced "strong schizoid trends" that led military officials to declare him unfit for service..he landed in the hospital, where he was examined by medical personnel who initially concluded that Kerouac suffered from dementia..."

From Kerouac's medical record:

"Patient states he believes he might have been nervous when in boot camp because he had been working too hard just prior to induction. He had been writing a novel, in the style of James Joyce, about his own home town, and averaging approximately 16 hours daily in an effort to get it down.This was an experiment and he doesn't intend to publish. At present he is writing a novel about his experiences in the Merchant Marine."

Last year's news. But if you're a fan of Kerouac, the silly diagnostic barbs might be worth a quick read. Link

On Poetry.

This pretty summarises what I think of some people's works.

Most people ignore most poetry
most poetry ignores most people.

– Adrian Mitchell

Baudelaire, still a pervert.

Charles Baudelaire by Gustave Corbert (L) and Henri Matisse (R).

"If he were alive today...would Charles Baudelaire employ venture capital for a sinister new internet startup, Fleurs du Mal Inc? Would Arthur Rimbaud use information technology to disorder the senses? Would any of them, were they alive today, find some way to advance literature by means of artificial intelligence?"

Fetishistic, schizophrenic and iconoclast extraordinaire, Supervert is celebrating the two year anniversary of their Baudelaire site by uploading new translations of Fleurs du Mal. The site also features several new audio files, recitations of poems from Baudelaire's famous discourse of poetic evilness.

Scorpion and Other Poems


Can a poem be as simple as this? A nursery rhyme, a half-remembered phrase and pure emotional instinct. No big words and delicate meter structures. No sentimental gushing of heart torrents, only childishness and dreamy insouciance with words that are sung in a million variations of feeling. Yes, Scorpion and Other Poems is as simple as that. I've recently finished reading this extraordinary volume of poetry by Stevie Smith, published a year after her death in 1971.

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A little introduction & a review of My Dateless Diary

Dateless DiaryHello there, people. I'm kosherjellyfish, but I'm anything but kosher. Chinese actually. After much procrastination, I've finally joined my online friends, redelephant & girlanacrhonise, in this literary blog – one way of salvaging my terrible reading habits. Perhaps only through this means I will finally develop the discipline to stick to one book at a time, and actually finish reading it by the end of the day.



And my review today would be R.K. Narayan's My Dateless Diary : An American Journey. Was introduced to a short story of Narayan back when I was a literature stude Continue reading this entry »

Writing and Research Paralysis

Lady Writing a Letter (vermeer)_jpg.jpglady-writing.jpgvermeer-wtrpitcher.jpgvermeer.jpgguitar-player.jpg

While reading Peter Elbow’s Writing with Power, I came across the problem of ‘research paralysis’: the suffocation of a writer’s creativity by the sheer breadth and depth of the research process. This is something that happens to me most of the time, always leading me to some form of turpid procrastination. Elbow illustrates a common situation and offers some practical solutions..

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Words and Schematics


Just read the latest copy of Diagram 5:1, an electronic journal of text and art. This issue has the usual dose of taxonomic diagram-pictures, along with a decent collection of hypertextual and text-referential poetry. I found Marc Pietrzykowski's javascript poem rather.. interesting. It's a likely representation of how a computer would write, if it had a moment of sentience.

Reading Poetry, Saying Hello

Allen Ginsberg.jpgSeamus_Heaney.jpgmain.jpgpaz.jpgsnyder.jpg

Recently came across an awesome collection of hour long videos featuring interviews with writers on their work. Some of the lovely videos include rare poetry readings by poets in both dingy clubs and posh auditoriums. Featured writers include Seamus Heaney, Allen Ginsberg, Kazuo Ishiguro,William H.Gass (rare!), Czeslaw Milosz and crazy dharma bum Japhy Ryder, Gary Synder himself! A must see.

The Forsyth Library. Link

Laocoon and his Sons


Last night while browsing through a photo book on Greek Art, I came across this startling picture of Laocoon and his children, strangled by sea snakes. I must have seen this famous picture a dozen times before, but somehow I never did have the time to examine it in detail. Upon close inspection, Laocoon really seems to stand out from the other Grecian sculptures I have seen, which now seemed transparent and placid in comparison.

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